A nearly yearlong social innovation accelerator program run by the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas came to a close this week at “The Pitch” with the awarding of more than $275,000 in prize money and the award of Social Innovator of the Year.
The competition’s five finalists are social entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for improving access to education, income, and health, which the nonprofit called the building blocks of opportunity that represent the core areas of impact for United Way in Dallas.
“United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is a leader nationally in leveraging the power of social innovation to identify new and innovative solutions for long-standing community problems that are more effective, efficient, sustainable and just,” Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, said in a statement. “Every spring, we look forward to celebrating the impact of social innovation at The Pitch, where finalists from our Social Innovation Accelerator class share their solutions for improving our community.”
Each finalist took the stage at Toyota Music Factory in front of a crowd of 800 to present their game-changing solutions live to a panel of judges.
The prizes awarded were:
SOCIAL INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR: Empowering the Masses, which provides North Texans with access to quality education that can be completed in a short amount of time, using their food pantry as a way to engage clients with their education courses.
ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT AWARD: Cornerstone Crossroads Academy, which supports people who have dropped out of high school as they work to earn their diploma, which in turn increases their lifetime earning potential.
IMPACT AWARD: March to the Polls, which works to increase voter participation for historically underrepresented communities by holding voter registration drives and educating and motivating voters.
INNOVATION AWARD: Together We Thrive, which pairs youths who have experienced vulnerable situations, such as homelessness, foster care, and sex-trafficking with dedicated life coaches who provide stability, guidance, and emotional support.
AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD: Cornerstone Crossroads Academy, which supports people who have dropped out of high school as they work to earn their diploma, which in turn increases their lifetime earning potential.
Each finalist was awarded a $25,000 March Tocqueville Fellows Accelerator award.
Sampson noted that social innovation is one technique driving the organization toward its Aspire United 2030 community goals:
- Increase by 50% the number of local students reading on grade level by third grade.
- Increase by 20% the number of young adults earning a living wage, adding nearly $800 million in wages per year to the North Texas economy.
- Increase to 96% the percentage of our neighbors with access to affordable health care insurance.
This year’s judges were:
- Dennis Cail, Co-founder & CEO of Zirtue
- Jorge Corral, Dallas Office Managing Director of Accenture
- Nicole Small, CEO, LH Capital, Inc and Lyda Hill Philanthopies
- Vipin Nambiar, Founder and Managing Partner of HN Capital Partners
- Tellis Bethel, Chief Social Innovation Officer & Chief Diversity Officer, Toyota North America
Applications for the 2024 Accelerator Cohort will open on Monday and close on May 26. There will be an in-person info session and application workshop from 5-6:30 p.m. May 4, at The DEC at Redbird, 3662 W. Camp Wisdom Road.
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